Health & Wellness

Local Hospitals Partnering with Law Enforcement, Prevention Links to Offer Resources, Services to Overdose Victims

79b0a9dcdfe4f56dfb69_UC_Initiative.jpg
Union County Opioid Response Initiative committee members Credits: Union County Prosecutor
79b0a9dcdfe4f56dfb69_UC_Initiative.jpg

UNION COUNTY, NJ – All three major hospitals in Union County have joined forces with local and county law enforcement as well as a Roselle-based nonprofit group to help combat the current epidemic of drug overdose and to help victims break the cycle of addiction, entitled the Union County Opioid Response Initiative.

The announcement was made Feb.27 by acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park, Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Bruce Bergen, Union County Police Chiefs Association President and Rahway Police Chief John Rodger, Prevention Links Executive Director Pamela Capaci, Trinitas Regional Medical Center Vice President of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health James McCreath, Ph.D., Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway Director of Clinical Services Terrence McCarthy, and Atlantic Health System (Overlook Medical Center) Director of Behavioral and Integrative Health Services Lori Ann Rizzuto.

The goal of the initiative is to improve the quality of services offered to individuals suffering from drug addiction, increase accessibility to community-level addiction resources, and streamline the fashion in which individuals are either brought to or seek help at inpatient and outpatient facilities across the area.

Sign Up for E-News

It is an idea whose time is certainly here. A total of 249 people have died due to drug overdoses in Union County since 2011, including 52 in 2016. All but nine of those 52 victims died due to acute heroin intoxication, prescription opioid intoxication, or both. Those statistics mirror national trends. More than 50,000 Americans suffered a fatal overdose in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with that cause now eclipsing auto accidents as the nation’s most common type of accidental death. The majority of drug overdose deaths nationally (more than six out of 10) involve some type of opioid. New Jersey was one of 19 states designated by the CDC as experiencing a statistically significant rise in its drug overdose death rate from 2014 to 2015, with an increase of 16.4 percent.  

The Initiative grew out of a partnership that beginning in November 2016 when Trinitas, in Elizabeth, Robert Wood Johnson in Rahway, and Atlantic Health System, which includes Overlook Medical Center in Summit, signed memorandums of understanding with the Prosecutor’s Office to provide new supplies of the lifesaving drug naloxone to Union County municipal police departments on a quarterly, on-demand basis. The Prosecutor’s Office had initially started distributing naloxone to those departments in July 2014, with individual deployments of the drug by police climbing from slightly more than 60 countywide in 2015 up to more than 150 in 2016.

During that time, the Prosecutor’s Office and its partners agreed that more needed to be done to bridge the gap between simply saving lives and getting overdose victims the rehabilitative help they need. Therefore, the Initiative’s first major step, taken late last year, was to design and distribute to Union County municipal police departments a resource guide that features contact and background information for a range of local service providers offering treatment, counseling, rehabilitation, detox, and more.

Trinitas, Robert Wood Johnson, and Overlook each introduced its own program through which addiction recovery specialists meet with overdose victims on-site at the hospital.

Trinitas funded its program at the start of the year and services is available with one full-time and one part-time paid staff member with LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)/LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certification assigned to the task. These staffers will be available as often as possible during high-volume hours in the Trinitas emergency room, including as much weekend coverage as the hospital’s budget allows, according to McCreath.

Robert Wood Johnson in Rahway launched its program in October 2016, with its contracted addiction recovery specialists available on an on-call basis, 24-7, supplemented by certified emergency psychiatric emergency services staff and registered nurses. Its program is funded by a state grant.

Overlook anticipates launching its program in May 2017, with volunteer addiction recovery specialists being trained directly through Prevention Links.

All three hospitals have agreed to share their program data and outcomes with the Initiative to track effectiveness and tailor future efforts to meet specific needs of county residents battling addiction.

“The data collected will enhance existing community health assessments and will frontline Union County’s need for secure federal funding in order to combat the prescription opioid and heroin crisis,” Capaci said. “Further, adequate funding will allow for enhanced program infrastructure and implementation processes, heightened engagement of key stakeholders, and timely expansions of the Initiative in areas where greater need is assessed.” 

Via quarterly usage reports, it is expected that the data collected also will be used by state and federal policymakers and researchers in order to inform future substance use policy and practice, Capaci added. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Roselle/Roselle Park

Register by June 18 for Summer of Fun Camp in Roselle

June 16, 2018

ROSELLE, NJ - Get your kids ready for best eight weeks of their young lives, as Roselle presents the 2018 version of its summer fun camp for borough youngsters.

Under the direction of Recreation Director Donald Shaw, borough officials have put together eight weeks of fun, from outdoor adventures, to movies, to arts and crafts, to bowling to swimming. There are also visits to a lake and to a ...

Vitale Family to Hold “Alex's Lemonade Stand” Fundraiser

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Vitale Family in Roselle Park will be participating in "Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer" this Saturday, June 16. 

The Vitale family has a son Matteo who has pediatric cancer and they want to help raise awareness.

The family will have a lemonade stand in front of there home at 718 Chestnut Street in Roselle Park, to raise ...

Roselle Park Bulk Collection Company Experiencing Significant Delays

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The Borough of Roselle Park's Bulk Waste Collection contractor is experiencing significant delays at the solid waste transfer station designated by the Union County Utilities Authority. 

Due to these disposal delays, residents should expect delayed pickups today and Friday, as applicable, and potentially through the weekend.

The Borough remains in close ...

Roselle PBA to Host 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic

ROSELLE, NJ - The Roselle PBA will be hosting their 2nd Annual Free Softball Clinic at Sylvester Land Field for all ages and skill levels.

The clinic will be held on Tuesday, July 10. Youth ages 5 to 11 will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and ages 12 to 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

While the event is primarily for girls, boys are also welcome to join in on the fun that will ...

Make Music Roselle Park Lineup Includes Rock Bands, Singer-songwriters, Free Harmonica Lesson

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The lineup for the first-ever Make Music Roselle Park will include two rock bands, a pair of singer-songwriters, a free beginner harmonica lesson and more.

The event being held on June 21, Make Music Roselle Park is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill ...

Freeholder Board Announces Launch of Free Farmers’ Market Vouchers for Seniors

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced that the annual Farmers’ Market voucher program for seniors will begin again this summer. Starting on June 25, income-eligible adults age 60 and up can receive a total of $25 in free vouchers to purchase fresh produce at designated Farmers’ Markets throughout Union County.

The total of $25 is provided in $5 ...

Fuzzy Lemons Featured at Free Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Celebrating All Families

June 11, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are inviting residents and visitors to enjoy a day of free fun activities for children, parents, friends, and family featuring the beloved rock ‘n’ roll of The Fuzzy Lemons, at the upcoming Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day.

The event will take place on Saturday, June 16 at Rahway River Park in Rahway. CommUNITY PRIDE Day ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent ...

Help Is Available for Suicide Prevention

June 15, 2018

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders reminds residents that trained counselors at NJ Hopeline will provide confidential, anonymous guidance for people who may be having suicidal thoughts, or who know someone at risk.

NJHopeline may be contacted 24/7 by phone at 855-654-6735 or by live chat at njhopeline.com.

In addition, Union County residents can contact the County’s ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...